Pages

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Cannot Compute

Computer problems have been driving me crazy lately. We can't afford to get it fixed so hubby's been tinkering. They love to tinker don't they? Most of my childhood memories of my Dad are of him with his head stuck under the bonnet, or talking to his legs as they protruded from underneath the car. I'm sure most of the time there was nothing wrong with it, he just enjoyed tinkering. I think his attempts were more successful that my husbands though. The more he insists he's 'fixed it', the more problems I seem to have.

I rely on the internet to connect me to the outside world. I don't socialise, we don't have the money to go out really, and I don't really like leaving him on his own too often. We like spending time together (good job really) but it does mean that since moving to Cornwall a few years ago we have made no friends. We'll chat to neighbours, and there are one or two people we know locally but we see them rarely (and when I say locally I mean 30 or 40 miles away) so I can feel very isolated at times.

I use facebook to keep in touch with family as it cuts the cost of phone calls, and for the same reason use emails to deal with most problems that arise. As a result any problem with the laptop is a major headache. I suspect the poor, overworked, old thing is on its last legs and I really don't know what I'll do once it finally gives up the ghost. Still, it seems to be cooperative this afternoon and working reasonably well so I thought I'd drop by and say hello to let you all know I'm ok, just battling with a burnt out, stream driven old computer that likes to put its feet up and have a rest every so often.
Usually when I have the most work to do.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

My Yo-Yo Week

It's been a strange week really, full of ups and downs that have produced swinging emotions and the feeling of never quite being in control.

It started with a snotty letter from the council informing us they'll begin the process of eviction if we don't bring the rent up to date. That produced panic, tears, worry, anger, helplessness and eventually resignation. I'll get it sorted. I've been in touch and let them know we're having problems, and they know we always catch up whenever we've fallen behind before so I'm hoping they will see sense and realise that its only a temporary glitch. After all, the arrears actually amount to less than two weeks rent. We aren't talking about a fortune here, but to us trying to find £130 from nowhere, well, it doesn't happen overnight.

On the upside, we now have double glazing. Yay! We were told when we moved to this flat that we would be getting double glazing 'soon'. It's taken 3 1/2 years but it's finally in place. Very soon we should have loft and cavity wall insulation too. I'm hoping this will all mean greatly reduced heating bills...which in turn will make paying the rent easier.

My kettle blew up. Again. I don't have much luck with kettles. I was resorting to boiling water in a saucepan, but I found our old camping kettle at the back of the cupboard so that will have to do until we manage to get another electric one.

It was my grandson's inquest on Thursday.
I was really upset that I couldn't afford to travel up for it, as I knew it would be a difficult day for them, but my mum went with them instead and actually, it was better than expected. They'd already had a meeting with the coroner so he was able to keep it brief, which was a relief with the press being present but still an upsetting day.

My grandson now has a headstone and his parents ordered the first breathing monitor to be loaned out in my grandson's memory for a rainbow baby (that's a baby born after the loss of a sibling). We started fundraising for his headstone as they are so dreadfully expensive, but thanks to all the wonderful support we've had the final payment was paid this week and his beautiful Peter Pan headstone was put in place so now we are continuing with the fundraising to help other families.

I scalded my hand filling up a hot water bottle. Note to self* In future pour the water in the bottle, and not over your fingers! Fortunately it wasn't too bad, painful but no lasting damage.

It's been a real roller coaster week.



If you haven't yet signed the petition to ban cot bumpers, please do so.
http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/54991

We have a long way to go to reach the 100,000 signatures we need.

A safe cot is a bare cot. No bumpers, loose blankets, pillows, duvets or teddies.
Know the risks, reduce the risks.
A safe place to sleep is every baby's right.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Feeding the 5,000 with Three Chicken Breasts

OK, so I may be exaggerating a bit there, I don't think even I could stretch a few chicken breasts far enough to feed thousands, but I did feed two hungry adults an evening meal for four days with them so that's almost as good in my book.

I'm quite a fan of the bags of frozen Smart Price/Value/M savers chicken breasts (I chop and change my supermarket depending on which is most convenient at the time). You get 1kg for £4, give or take a penny or two and they cook really nicely.

Of course I'd rather buy a free range chicken, but I can't afford that and if the truth be known my husband cannot be trusted around chicken. He loves it. Cook a whole one and he'd devour it as soon as my back was turned, picking cold chicken off the bone until there was nothing left. So these frozen chicken breasts are ideal as I can just defrost as much as I need and there's nothing for naughty little big fingers to pinch later.

Last weekend I was starting to panic a little over food, or the lack of it. Hubby had been ill and I hadn't been able to get to do the shopping, which meant I'd ended up having to buy bits and bobs to see us through at the co-op or Spar and my pennies simply don't go as far there as they do at somewhere like Asda or Morrisons. That's when I discovered I still had three chicken breasts in the freezer that I didn't know about. (I should probably point out that my tired, old freezer makes so much ice that the polar ice caps aren't really in any danger, I can ship out replacements anytime. This means often a drawer ices up to the point it's impossible to open without hacking at it like a thing possessed so whatever is lurking in said drawer gets forgotten about for a while).

The sudden discovery of chicken was a delight, and enabled us to have a roast dinner last Sunday for the first time since Christmas. The thing with these frozen chicken breasts is it's pretty hit and miss what size they are. Sometimes the bag is full of several rather small breasts, other times you may only get four but they are so big I'm left wondering if they've actually come from an ostrich rather than a chicken. Most of the time its a mix, so I had one large, one medium and one tiny breast in my cooking arsenal.

I trimmed the medium sized breast so I had two small ones to cook for our Sunday dinner, and saved the trimmings and large breast in the fridge. The portions may have been a bit on the small side, but most of us eat too much meat anyway and by the time I'd made a mountain of roast potatoes (some taken out early to freeze), stuffing balls, roasted onions, and plenty of veg we certainly didn't notice that the meat portion was a little mean (Roast spuds are the best bit anyway).

I had made a sponge pudding too, but we were much too stuffed to even attempt that!

The next day I diced the remaining chicken and put it in the slow cooker with plenty of sliced onions, and whatever veg I'd got going over in the cupboard or fridge (several carots, a tomato, a few mushrooms and half a red pepper) along with a 36p chicken casserole mix. I'm not a big fan of mashed potato but hubby loves it and would eat it until it was coming out of his ears, so I served some of the chicken and most of the veg with a mountain of mash.

Another very filling meal. Two down, two to go.

So what to do now? I've got chicken in gravy. Add a couple of spoonful's of frozen peas and a can of sweetcorn and serve with home made potato wedges. Delicious.

Hmmm, not much left now, but there is still quite a bit of gravy, a few pieces of chicken and a little bit of veg. Soup it is then. I added chicken stock, more onion, a clove of garlic and the remains of  a bag of frozen veg that neither of us liked very much, salt and pepper to taste, and blitzed in the blender. I have to say it wasn't the most attractive colour, BUT served with home made soda bread it was very tasty and extremely filling.

So there you have it. Eight servings from three chicken breasts. And despite using just chicken, veg and potatoes for the most part, not boring at all. Each meal was very different from the last. Not bad going if I say so myself!

Sunday, 9 February 2014

My Birthday Box

The first two months of the year, January especially, are what can only be described as infested with birthdays. Not a week goes by without one, some weeks have three or four scattered around to fill up my calendar. They aren't just any old birthday's either, the sort where I can just pop a card in the post or post a message on Facebook, these are important birthdays; parents, children, step children, grandchildren...

Every year it gives me a headache, sleepless nights even worrying about how I'm going to manage to send a grandchild a birthday present when I can't even afford to put the heating on. Every year I say this isn't going to happen again, I'm going to be much more organised in future and plan in advance like I used to. It's ironic really, when I was working and had enough money that I could buy birthday presents and cards as and when I needed to, I always planned in advance. If I saw something I liked, I'd buy it and put it away to use at a later date. If I saw pretty birthday cards I'd buy them straight away so I'd always got one handy if I forgot a birthday. Now, when I really need to do that I talk myself out of it, telling myself that the pound or two I'd be spending could be put to better use. And then panic when another birthday rolls around.
 
Well, no more.
 
Last week I made a start on my 'birthday box' by buying a load of cards. Card Factory is great for this, and often have 10 for £1 on basic cards or 5 for £1 for more special ones, so I spent £2 and bought 15. Now I have a card for just about every occasion and every age. Next week I shall add a book of stamps to the box.
 
Then I shall start keeping an eye open for little things I can use for gifts. It will take time to build up my box, and I'll have to keep replacing things as I use them, but if everything goes according to plan, come next year and the dreaded months of birthdays, all I'll have to do is go to my box and I'll have everything I need.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Oh My, What a Year That Was!

I've just realised that today marks exactly one year since I started writing this blog! I have to admit that over time the frequency of my posts has diminished, but I could never have imagined twelve months ago the trials the last year would bring, or the effect they would have on me.

My life was hard a year ago, but I was happy in myself. There were problems, of course, but I never felt they were insurmountable. Some of those problems I knew would never be solved - no matter how much I may wish for it I could never wave a magic wand and restore my husbands health - but I always felt that we could at least find a way around things, find ways of dealing with situations that although didn't remove the problems, at least made them seem less of a struggle. 2013 very neatly stripped me of all my illusions. 
 
It sounds excessive to say it, melodramatic even, but 2013 was the worst year of my life.  
 
I won't dwell on the problems of last year here. Those of you who have been reading for a while know about some of them, others I haven't had the heart or the strength to discuss and although I've, in some ways, come to terms with them there is no need to dredge it all up again now. Suffice to say, I am heartily glad to see the back of last year.
 
I usually begin each new year with hope. I like new years, I like the fresh start, the chance to metaphorically put the past behind us, draw a line under any mistakes or unpleasantness, and start again. We could do that at any time of course, but as half the world seems to be doing the same thing on January 1st it only seems polite to join in. This year felt a little different though. I was reluctant to indulge in the 'this is going to be a good year' mentality for fear of tempting fate. For the same reason I refused to agree with anyone who said 'this year can't be any worse than last year'. Don't go issuing challenges to the Gods like that! They might just take you up on it.

I don't usually make New Year's resolutions as such, more a list of things I'd like to change or achieve during the year, and they are just something to aim for rather than being set in stone, but this year I haven't even done that. It hasn't been that I haven't wanted to, more that I've struggled to focus. I seem to find it hard to concentrate on very much just lately. If anything all I really want for this year is to get back to normal (whatever normal is), get off anti-depressants and find myself again. That would be nice.

I do have hope for this year, there is always hope. And I am going to do my best to get back into the habit of posting regularly. If nothing else I think that will help me get my focus back. And I'm going to start eating properly again. No more grabbing something from the freezer and just slinging it in the oven. I enjoy cooking so I'm going to get off my backside, stop feeling sorry for myself and actually start cooking properly again.

Hmmm. Maybe I have made some resolutions for 2014 after all.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Mulled Cider, Sausage Rolls & a Very Late Dinner

Christmas this year wasn't looked upon with a great amount of enthusiasm, in fact it's fair to say I viewed it with a certain amount of dread. I came very close to not even putting the decorations up this year, but I talked myself into it by buying a very special looking snowflake to take pride of place in memory of my grandson, I'd got no choice but to put them up then, had I?

Having said I was only buying for the grandchildren this year, I did in the end manage to get gifts for a few others too. I didn't want to miss out my son and his partner after the dreadful year they've had, and I wanted to get hubby something. In the end I managed it by making good use of amazon and ebay and got some real bargains. I've never done my Christmas shopping on line before, I prefer 'real' shops, but under the circumstances it did make things much easier. Hubby's gift was just a second hand cd, but it's one he's been after for ages so he was delighted and it cost less than £4 including postage.

We had a very lazy Christmas day. Hubby really wasn't feeling well and had barely slept all night, and I was exhausted too as I think all the stress of the last months is starting to catch up with me, so we had a ridiculously long lie in. I popped some sausage rolls in the oven (£1 for a bag of 50 from Aldi), made myself a coffee and went back to bed with a book. It was lazy and cosy and felt very decadent. We opened our presents around lunch time and sat in bed eating chocolates. Hubby managed  a few sausage rolls but said he really didn't feel up to a big meal so we'd decided to leave that until later, or even another day if necessary.

I left hubby sleeping and set about making pudding. Hubby's very fond of meringue and as he'd bought me a food mixer for Christmas (he felt rotten buying me something for the kitchen but it really was what I wanted) I had the pleasure of whipping it up in minutes instead of an hour or more of aching arms doing it all by hand with a fork! I set cider to mulling in the slow cooker, along with a handful of dried fruit, a couple of chopped apples, and two or three halved clementines.  I can't add much in the way of spices as hubby only likes ginger but even so, the aroma drifting from the kitchen in a very short space of time was wondrous.

We eventually had our Christmas meal at around 9.30 pm! I know that's rather late but at least hubby was able to enjoy it by then. I'd left my food shopping a bit too late on Christmas eve, so I hadn't managed to get a duck which is what we usually have, we had half a leg of lamb instead and it was delicious. I couldn't get any brussel sprouts or parsnips either and had to make do with roasted carrots and onions, and some frozen veg. I made a mountain of roast potatoes (far too many than is good for us but they are the best bit after all) and some stuffing balls.

We were so stuffed that we didn't even attempt pudding! We've got that to look forward to today.

I haven't actually worked out the cost of it all, but given that we still have quite a bit of lamb left I think we did pretty well. I'll slice up what's left of the lamb to have with salad tonight.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Grudgingly Thinking About Christmas

I haven't felt much enthusiasm for Christmas this year. Normally by now I'd have been buying little bits and pieces each week for presents, and my cards are usually written by the end of November ready to be posted as soon as December rolls around. But I haven't felt much enthusiasm for anything since my baby Grandson died in September, and I just hadn't been able to jolly myself up enough to think about cards or presents. I knew I was probably creating problems for myself as our finances really don't allow for leaving the shopping until the last minute, but I just wasn't in the mood.
 
Then last week I went to visit family. My mum helped out by paying for the diesel thankfully, and I was able to be with my son and his partner on what should have been my grandson's 1st birthday. We had a little party for him and let off lanterns and burnt a cot bumper, and surprisingly it was an evening full of laughter (after we almost set fire to next door! Oooops. I think we need to find something safer next year!) I think he would have been pleased that we could laugh.
 
We had planned to return the next day, but hubby was feeling too ill to want to attempt the drive. In the end we were there for almost a week. Mum sensibly pointed out that if I didn't do my shopping while I was up there, I'd have the cost of postage to find too so all of  a sudden I found myself propelled into a frenzy of shopping. Would you believe I got almost all of it done in one day? AND spent less than £20?
 
I had already decided that I was only really going to buy for the children this year. I usually like to get something for everyone so they all have something to open, even if it's just a little token gift, or maybe a home made cake or similar, but like I said, this year I just haven't felt up to either shopping, baking or crafting. I know all the adults will understand. At least I hope so!
 
I have to admit I didn't really put as much thought into the gift buying as I usually do, and funds were very limited so even the grandchildren only had an average of less than two pounds spent on them... but then hubby and I do have nine grandchildren between us so it can very quickly add up.
Our eldest grandchild is eight, most of them are babies or toddlers so it was fairly easy. I know it's likely to get harder, and more expensive as they grow, but for now I know cuddly toys and selection boxes will be most welcomed.  
 
I spent an extra couple of pounds replacing some of the things on my grandson's grave that were damaged in the very high winds but we've decided that we will donate to Sense for Christmas as we can't buy him toys. You can donate £3 by texting TOY to 70007 and help raise money for sensory toys for deaf and blind children. I think he'd like that very much.
 
If I somehow manage to sort out presents for the rest of the family, all well and good, but at least now I know I can relax, safe in the knowledge that at least all those who still believe in Santa will have a little something in their stockings.
 
 
 
If you are in the UK and haven't signed the petition against cot bumpers yet, you can do so at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/54991  We need 100,000 signatures to get it read in parliament and we still have a very long way to go.